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Marching Toward The Future of Short Message Discovery

Andie Linker

By now, it's no secret that the short message data captured in e-discovery cases is exploding before our eyes. This type of data—encompassing conversations held via text and messaging platforms like Slack or Teams—can no longer be seen as supplementary data in a case.

Because these platforms are now so integrated into the everyday interactions and workflows of today’s workforce, they are increasingly becoming central to the story discovery teams seek to uncover during review and investigations.

In fact, during the session “The Future of Short Message Discovery” at Relativity Fest, session emcee and Relativity’s senior product manager, Mike Deureling, polled the crowd to see how many of their organizations use short message platforms like Slack and Teams in their day-to-day work. To no one's surprise, every attendee in the room raised their hand.

To gain additional context into the increasing prevalence of short message data, Harry Trick, a senior manager at FRP Advisory, joined the Relativity team to share his organization’s journey with short message data. Then, the team went through what we're delivering in RelativityOne in order to transform the experience with chat data in RelativityOne.

FRP Advisory and Short Message Data

Harry recalls that the first case he ever saw including short message data took place in 2019, when FRP Advisory had a case with 3 gigabytes of WhatsApp data collected from a single phone. Although the team was able to process that data into RelativityOne, they didn't know what they were going to do with it once it was in there, there was not yet a standard protocol around reviewing short message data.

As the entire legal industry has learned over the last few years, short message data requires thoughtful handling for a few key reasons, including:

  • It comes in many formats, which can mean it isn’t easily collected from the many possible endpoints, and it doesn’t display nicely in a review platform without conversion.
  • It is message- and conversation-centric, not document-centric, so separating relevant discussion from irrelevant ones can be tricky.
  • It can be media-rich, featuring elements like emojis and GIFs that can be indicative of sentiment.
  • Best practices for review and production are undefined, so workflows and requests continually evolve from matter to matter.

Fast forward to 2023, and Harry's team now has six active investigations in RelativityOne, each of which involve short message data in some way. The team at FRP Advisory has learned that they need to strategize around short message data; they can't just process it all, push to review, and hope for the best.

In one such case, the review team at FRP Advisory noticed in their email data that everyone was referring to conversations they’d been having on Slack. (Who among us hasn’t sent an email that begins with, “Per our Slack conversation…” or a similar sentiment?) So Harry’s team decided to collect all of the company's Slack data into RelativityOne.

Suddenly, this small chunk of email data turned into millions of short messages that pointed to hundreds of millions of dollars in fraud.

To cull down all of the chat data, the team used what Harry referred to as the "bread and butter of Relativity": search terms, filtering by date, and other best-practice culling techniques. This allowed them to find the most relevant messages to their case, which they were able to slice out and produce.

All in all, by bringing short message data into RelativityOne, they were able to produce 620 documents all pointing to the fraud and making their case.

RelativityOne and Short Message Data

Our goal at Relativity is to provide our customers with a near-native experience for reviewing chat data in RelativityOne, so that cases like the one FRP Advisory had are seamless.

To do this, we've built a solution that focuses on the four Cs of reviewing short message data: collection, conversion, culling, and coding.

Collection and Conversion: By utilizing Collect in RelativityOne, you can easily and directly collect Slack, Teams, and Google Chat data and convert it into Relativity Short Message Format. You can also work with our partners over at Cellebrite to collect and convert any data beyond that scope. Coming soon, we’re integrating a direct conversion service into RelativityOne so you can convert and process PST, JSON, and UFDR files directly into RSMF in a single, streamlined step.

Culling and Coding: You can use all the search and filtering functionality, including filtering by participant, date range, or search term, on your RSMF data. Then you can review these messages directly in our short message viewer, which provides you with a near-native experience that makes reading and understanding these conversations more intuitive and insightful. Coming soon, we'll provide even more metadata associated with each message so you can begin reviewing on the message (rather than document or conversation) level.

To learn more about short message in RelativityOne, check out our e-book!

IYKYK: How Legal Teams Can Crack the Code on Short Message Data

Andie Linker is a member of the product marketing team at Relativity.